Ex Machina

 

The best film I’ve seen this year is Ex Machina, which ranks near Bladerunner in its story of artificial intelligence creatures and their interactions with humans.

Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is a 26-year-old coder for a large search engine. He wins a company-wide lottery and is chosen to spend a week with the company’s founder, the just slightly older Nathan (Oscar Issac) at Nathan’s remote mountain hideaway.

After a copter ride over miles of wilderness, Caleb makes his way to Nathan’s crib and meets the quirky genius. Nathan tells Caleb about Ava (Alicia Vikander), a robot Nathan has created that Caleb will evaluate over the next few days.

Caleb never gets comfortable. His room, and much of the building, has no windows. There are occasional power shutdowns. Nathan counters his drinking binges with extreme workouts. Nathan speaks to his female Japanese housemaid (Sonoya Mizuno) abusively.

Caleb has daily sessions with Ava where they converse but are separated by glass. Following the sessions, Nathan debriefs Caleb.

As the week progresses, Caleb’s curiosity about Ava and her capabilities grows. As with Deckard and Rachael in Bladerunner, Caleb and Ava appear to be developing genuine affection for one another, which helps set up the story’s climax.

Rookie director Alex Garland makes a smashing debut in a film that is understated. This movie depends more on a thoughtful script (Garland wrote it) than on effects and tricks. The focus on conversations makes Ex Machina a film that, with a few accommodations, could be presented as a stage play.

With a small group of actors carrying the film, casting and performances are crucial. Issac and Gleeson, in their portrayals of these brainy nerds, are fun to watch in their interactions. Vikander brings appropriate restraint to her role as the gorgeous robot Ava. Bravo to all three!

One reviewer quoted in the above trailer called Ex Machina “an instant classic.” For any fan of great movies, I recommend it. For any fan of great sci-fi, Ex Machina is a must-see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total Recall

Now THIS is an action movie!

“Total Recall” gets set and then goes. And once it launches, it maintains a breakneck pace with just a few interludes of calm.

Set a hundred or so years from now, “Total Recall,”  presents a world devastated by war. Human life exists only in the United Federation of Britain in Europe and The Colony (Australia).

Colin Farrell is a worker who commutes each day from The Colony to UFB via a speedy underground bullet train called The Fall. He works a dreary job making robot cops. On a night when he’s restless, he takes a walk on the wild side. He turns down a come-on from a hooker with three boobs—no, she really has three boobs—and goes to a business called Rekall to have new memories implanted. That’s when all hell breaks loose.

Farrell’s character is revealed to have had another identity and another life, which he doesn’t quite recall, even with prompts and holograms along the way. The film is essentially a long—but thrilling—chase sequence, leading up to an explosive climax.

Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel provide more punch than eye candy in this movie. Kate plays Farrell’s wife who turns against him and Biel is his new/old ally in his escape from/return to his past. You want a cat fight between the two? You got it. It’s a good one.

The hundred-years-from-now land (and water) scapes of the UFB and The Colony may be the best since “Bladerunner’s” vision of a future Los Angeles. The buildings, the infrastructures and the teeming masses of humans offer a compelling guess at a future (not unlike in “Bladerunner”) with a huge Asian influence.

“Total Recall” features another glimpse of what our future may hold: phones physically embedded in Farrell’s and Beckinsale’s hands.

If you’re wondering why the 1990 version needed a remake, go see this one and compare. Also consider that anyone born in 1990 turns 22 this year and is right there in the film’s target demo. Despite the new film’s violence (and the quick flash of the three boobs), the film is rated PG-13. (The 1990 version was rated “R,” by the way.)

If you enjoy a good futuristic action flick, add “Total Recall” to your “must-see” list.